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2012 Dodge Journey ReviewThe Good
The 2012 Dodge Journey offers strong acceleration from its optional V6, a pleasant ride and plenty of room for passengers and cargo.The Bad
An anemic base engine, poor rearward visibility and an overly-harsh ride with the 19-inch alloys mar an otherwise impressive comeback for the 2012 Journey.
The CarGurus View
Dodge has put a lot of effort into improving the Journey, and customers have been responsive to its attempts. The lack of power and refinement with the 2.4 negates it as a workable option, and the negatives that come with the 19-inch alloys make any benefits of the trims they’re attached to far too unbalanced. Go with the AWD SXT for the best blend of performance and practicality, and you won’t be disappointed.
At a Glance
Dodge had a real turkey with the Journey, considering its sloppy steering and suspension, it’s woefully underpowered base engine and an interior that looked like it was sourced in eastern Europe. Last year, things were turned around a bit thanks to steering and suspension adjustments that made it a pleasure to drive and an interior revamp that pushed the Journey to the top of the class. Unfortunately the base engine is still around, but this year all Dodge offerings get trim-level simplification that sees the four designations of SE, SXT, Crew and R/T become ubiquitous across the brand.
Available with front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD), this crossover SUV seats 5 or 7 passengers with the optional third row. Even better, the Journey gets a significant price cut this year, and even with that optional third row, you can still drive off the lot for less than 20 grand, making this the most affordable crossover SUV on the market.
SE trims start with a 173-hp, 2.4-liter engine mated to a 4-speed automatic. This 4-cylinder is particularly gutless, especially for its displacement, but additional frustration comes from the lack of efficiency and refinement with this mill. Managing an EPA estimate of only 19 mpg city/26 highway, the 2.4 is an aggravating amalgamation of uninspiring power and unimpressive efficiency.
Better to move up to the SXT trim with its 283-hp, 3.6-liter V6. It pairs with a 6-speed automatic that manages 17/25 in FWD configuration. You’ll sacrifice 1 mpg on both ends if you go for the stability of AWD, but testers and owners alike have praised its operation–wholly willing to endure the sacrifice for the increased utility and safety. The V6 provides ample power for highway use, even when every seat is filled, and the 6-speed transmission is quick to shift, although some testers have found a slight reluctance to drop a cog. With this engine, the Journey delivers a maximum towing capacity of 2500 pounds, as opposed to 1000 pounds with the 2.4.
Ride & Handling
Last year saw significant improvements for steering and suspension alike, although it was a situation that proved easily improved. While SE trims get a base suspension, FWD SXT, Crew and R/T trims get a sport suspension, and AWD versions of the same get an even firmer performance suspension. Don’t expect sport-car performance or luxury comfort and you won’t be disappointed, as all trims save those fitted with the 19-inch alloys meet or beat the competition’s offerings. The larger 19-inch wheels fitted to the Crew and R/T trims do impart a much harsher ride, transmitting every bump and ripple through the steering wheel in an unpleasant manner. Stick with the 17-inch setup on the SXT for the best compromise.
Steering is pleasant as well, with a neutral feel and a reactive delivery that is a huge improvement over just two years ago. Most impressive is the lack of lean and roll, especially with the firmer suspension of the V6 AWD trims, making the AWD SXT with the 17-inch alloys the best bet.
Cabin & Comfort
Undoubtedly the biggest change for the Journey, the interior enhancements it received last year rocketed it from the bottom of the class straight to the top. Improvements were made to materials, design, fit, finish and even tech.
With the SE you’ll get cruise control, dual-zone climate control, a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, keyless ignition and entry, heated mirrors and a 6-speaker stereo with touchscreen interface, USB and auxiliary audio. The SXT adds satellite radio and plenty of exterior features, while the Crew trim offers power for the front seats, remote ignition, temperature gauge and compass, a larger touchscreen and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. You’ll also get automatic headlights, automatic climate controls, an auto-dimming rear-view and an upgraded stereo with Bluetooth.
The R/T trim does little to change things up, but you will enjoy black leather upholstery with contrast red stitching for all the implied sport that offers.
Cargo space isn’t class-leading at 68 cubic feet with all seats folded flat, but the quirky floor storage bins certainly add to utility. Head- and legroom are ample up front and adequate for the second row, although anyone over 6 feet will get quite familiar with the ceiling. The optional third row is for children only.
The 2012 Dodge Journey received a mixture of 4- and 5-star ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and a top rating of Good from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, thanks to standard features like traction and stability control, front-seat active head restraints, 4-wheel antilock assisted disc brakes and 7 standard airbags.
What Owners Think
Owners are pleased with the interior of the 2012 Dodge Journey, especially with regard to space. The V6 has received praise in regard to both refinement and capability, but the 2.4 has been a point of contention. However, the ride that the 19-inch alloys impart has been a major complaint, ruining the strides made with the improvements last year.
A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.
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